Saturday, November 28, 2009

Coromandel Loop, but which way?

We were up early and on the road - Ivan's black R6 straining at the straps to be let out, and me on the Boulevard C90 wanting to try out my new skills on one of the best motorcycling roads around - the Coromandel Loop. I mounted the camera on the handlebar and we were off for lunch in Thames - meaning Kopu - Hikuwai - Tairau - Whitianga - Coromandel - Thames. Turn left its 7KM and right its 180KM.

Ivan deciding which way to go - turn right and have lunch in Thames, or turn left and have lunch in Whitianga.

This was my first outing, besides riding to work each day, since my Level 1 California Superbike School at Hampton Downs, so I was keen to get out on a good road and see if any of the learning had sunken in. Well it took a couple of corners actually, to get the words right and to just relax and do the riders job:
The riders job is to stabilise the motorcycle with the throttle.
I soon got the feel right and started to really enjoy the road. I really like Keith Code's analogy of the $10 bill - you have only so much attention available and if you are going to use it on 'controlling fear' (probably introduced through too much rider input) then you don't have much left to explore the possibilities the corner may have, or getting to the places you want to be to drive into the next corner, for instance. As I started to relax and the learnings came back to me, the words started changing:
Once the throttle is cracked open, it is rolled on continuously throughout the remainder of the turn.
The cornering shot is a frame about 2 KM up Kopu-Hikuwai. We cruised on through to Whitianga with Ivan very responsibly leading the way, and stopped for gas and a break. The weather on the Thames side was overcast, however once over the Coromandel Ranges the sun was out and summer had arrived. We stopped for a while at the lovely beach for photo opportunities and ice-cream.

A very pleasant stop-over at Whitianga beach - Yamaha R6 and Suzuki Boulevard C90 - even the name is bigger! However the R6 has twice the number of cylinders and 3 times the revs.

Once underway again I lead the way back over the top to Coromandel and then down the Thames Coast to Thames, where we stopped for lunch at the Sola Cafe - a great place too BTW. I waved to a friendly patrol car (the biker nod actually) and noticed that Ivan had slipped back quietly into the distance a little ("Who me Officer"?). Ivan reckoned I'd get kicked out of the Cruiser Group if I kept riding like that - meaning he was having to work to keep up - I was really 'getting' that later turn-in point and the quick steer and roll-on is just magic. Of course you have to be in the right place and speed for that to come together, and that wasn't every corner by any means. It was interesting to figure out that when we were made to go around Hampton Downs with no brakes, we certainly got the idea of speed coming into the turn - it is the same speed you are trying to get when you have your brakes available... in fact I would say that I went faster into the turn without brakes than with them to start with. Of course on the track at Hampton Downs you go through those corners over and over so you can make small changes and experience what happens, whereas on the road the corners, traffic and environment is ever-changing so you get one chance per weekend :-)

It was still early... so gassed up we decided to return via another great road: Kaiaua-Kawakawa Bay-Clevedon. Mmmm oysters... $11.50 per dozen - good too. It only started to rain a little when we got to the motorway at Manurewa. Another magic motorcycle ride on some great roads just south of Auckland.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cruiser at Hampton Downs

I believe that the conversation goes something like this:
"Can you take a cruiser to the Hampton Downs race track?"
"Yep, sure can."
"Can you ride a cruiser in the California Superbike School?"
"Hell yeah!! Just ask the guys who took part in the inaugural sessions at Hampton Downs in November... there was a cruiser there! A red Suzuki Boulevard C90 - 1500cc and over 300kg of V-twin, peg-scraping goodness!"

That's right ladies, a cruiser pilot and his big red cruiser has completed day 1 of the California Superbike School at Hampton Downs.

The bike performed very well, and I earned 'cruiser' respect from the sporty riders. What an awesome day at Hampton Downs, learning the art of cornering. I am definitely going back for more when the sessions kick in again next year. 

This is no 'trackday'!!
5 x 20 minute sessions on track - so 10-12 laps per session
The first and second sessions NO BRAKES ALLOWED. The words "holy shit I'm going too fast" was uttered MANY times inside my helmet - I can tell you! Sphincter was working overtime!!!
But as the day went on, and I marked arcs at every corner where my floorboards were scraping, I gave those sporties a run for their money - although on the big 'speedy-bit' they caned me... I had the bike pinned in third, fourth and fifth... and they still zoomed by...[sigh - where is that Ducati 748 when I need it? - I wish...]

Late breaking news: Black Ducati 916 Mono purchased!

I recommend it to all riders.
California Superbike School Hampton Downs.
It's happening again in January 2010.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hampton Downs Superbike School

The California Superbike School has run its first set of sessions at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park. Thank you to Dave who alerted me to this, and further to Patricia who alerted him...

I was there for the Level 1 day - I so wish I had known how totally awesome this would be and prepaid the whole damn program!

I booked this motorcycle rider training day way ahead, and the months, weeks, days, minutes, seconds counted down very slowly... but then suddenly its tomorrow, and you have to try and sleep - I woke at 11:30, 12:30, 2:00AM, 4:00AM... and then the alarm went at a quarter to 5:00 and I was UP, SHOWER, DRESSED, BREAKFAST, PACKED, and on the road - grin already spreading.

Off to Dave's place and then meeting up with Ivan and a fill up with high octane gas at Mercer (well 97.5), before heading to the Hampton Downs track.

Windingroad: Red Suzuki VL1500 (C90)
Dave: Red Ducati 998S
Ivan: Black Yamaha R6

The ride down was good, the day looking like overcast but not raining. We ran into a few familiar faces... there were 6 current or ex-Datacom staff there (Ivan and I the current ones).

Arriving at 7:00AM for the registration we geared up and began the day with a counter-steering drill. On the cruiser you have to use countersteering and with the wide bars you get good leverage - it is a basic skill that underlies the physical drills in the courses.

Then into the classroom for a discussion of our Survival Reactions (SR's) - you come to the conclusion that our basic survival instincts are actually extremely dangerous when it comes to operating a motorcycle.
The riders job is to stabilise the motorcycle with the throttle.
The simplicity belies the difficulty of unlearning some very dangerous practices that we didn't really understand were so ingrained.

What an education, what a blast, what fun - but serious fun... no seriously...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I love the Coromandel Loop

I love the Coromandel Loop - there I said it again... keyword stuffing?
Coromandel Loop, Coromandel, Corormandel, Coromandel, motorcycling, NZ, winding roads, windingroad, heaven... poetic license!

Colemans Cruiser Club Ride

Colemans Ride time, and this one was on a perfect day... starting off overcast but clearing up nicely; roads dry and fairly clear of 4-wheelers; bonus: the tide was in.

View Larger Map
This is doing the Coromandel Loop in the counter-clockwise direction, commonly known as 'doing it backwards' to those in the know its one of those roads that really is a different ride going the other way.

It was an early start, well, I got to Coleman's at 8:15AM - early enough for a Sunday - but no would-be lie-in would get in the way of a great ride opportunity. About 35 bikes, down on past rides, but a good selection of cruisers, sports bikes, tourers and adventure bikes - and a couple of 250's on their first group ride. We got an early visit from the constabulary - (I saw 7 cars and 2 stationary camera vans on the ride) - I think senior Plod was jealous that we were off and he was working... I didn't speak to any of the others BTW. !innocent.

WORKN was out with the camera, having organised lunch at the Whitianga Golf Club - but not riding, in the van - which van-ished... maybe too excited about getting the editing done, or racing home to get the bike after watching us all beaming as we waved by him.

The pace was a bit stifled going over the Kopu-Hikuwai, but not icy this time, with too much braking to avoid the guy in front. So after the stop in Tairua I held back to free up the road a bit - good idea too. Lunch was mussel-fritters in bread and salad... very nice too!

Just over the Hill

Over the hill is Coromandel township, and the smoked mussel shop... mmmm smoked mussels. They are cheaper direct from the shop loose from the display cabinets, but you can get them from foodie places in Auckland in vacuum packed form. Places in Auckland. Once mussels safely in saddle-bags it was off for Thames along the a great piece of motorcycling road - shared with a few other bikes, campervans, cars with trailer-boats... but being on the bike is such a great advantage on this kind of road. I found the same in the South Island tour, where cars and buses would be 'seen-to' quickly, and the road was all yours again.

Keith Code

I have been reading Keith Code "Twist of the Wrist II" and kept repeating to myself:
  • Once the throttle is cracked on, it is rolled on evenly,
    smoothly, and constantly throughout the remainder of the turn.
  • One steering change per turn
And later in this month I am going to have a day at Hampton Downs with the California Superbike School learning and being drilled on these very things, but without the distraction of wondering which side of the road the next campervan will be on!! Bring it on.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Epic Fishing at North Head

Yes it looks so good, I've sailed past so many times, and said to myself "I must go there and fish one day". And that day dawned today, with the promise of some fishing following the WIMA Breast Cancer charity ride in Auckland. However we did not get a single bite.

It was very pleasant while the sun was there, and Auckland turned on a beautiful day for sailors, with a nice breeze, flat water, and sunshine. We watched yachts of all sizes - from 18 ft skiffs to America's Cup boats sailing sideways across the outgoing tide while we set about flinging our baits into the Waitemata Harbour with the hope of that great fish story.

Not...a...single...bite. Lucky I had taken some Epic Pale Ale there.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fishing the Bay of Islands

This trip to the Bay of Islands is the longest fishing expedition we have attempted - 10 days from Westhaven to Westhaven, via the Bay of Islands. So lots of sailing time and lots of fishing time - in the deep water!

Tutukaka Marina
Tutukaka Marina stop-over on the way up to the Bay of Islands.

The Preparation

Little jobs done: lights checked, forestay tightened, safety gear checked - off to the floating dock for a bottom clean - whats this? the normally reliable 20HP Bukh wont start!! Closer inspection showed a blown head gasket - three weeks to go - and thanks to Andy and the guys at The Engine Room we were all good to go with time to spare.

Fishing gear - well if you are going up to the Bay of Islands then you need the right gear! Full inventory required... from hooks to sinkers and all between, rods, reels, gaff, baitboard... the list did 'blossom' a little. We ended up with 11 rods between us, enough lures, jigs, softbait, salted bait, frozen bait and berley to feed the fish of the southern ocean...
...and the correct number of sinkers.

We weren't quite sure WHAT the correct number actually was - so Roger made over 5KG in his back yard in various weights and shapes, and brought them over in his luggage from Australia. Customs Officer: "And what's all this then?" - "Um, we're going fishing in the Bay of Islands..." CO: Eyes rolling "Are you returning to Australia afterwards?", "Yes", CO: "Very good... move along please" [Or something like that].

Beer: Epic of course! Plus some other stuff to ensure that the Epic tasted great - oh and Guinness - fresh fish, Guinness, pickled onions, crackers and cheese... heaven.

Going Up

We decided that we would go up in 3 days: the first day up to Mansion House Bay, Kawau (around 30 miles); the second to Tutukaka (about 65 miles) and with an early start, Cape Brett by lunchtime (nearly 30 miles) and into the fishing. We had a light breeze from the southeast and managed the gennaker on a couple of occasions. Tutukaka marina was home for the night, and we enjoyed an excellent dinner ashore at the Marina Pizzeria. The run to Cape Brett the next day turned into 5 hrs motoring as the wind had come around to the north and was very light.

We strung a lure out the back of course and had a couple of strikes before hooking into a large Barracouta. You can see the lure has a few toothmarks on it. The next hit took out the lure completely - and after all that prep, we only had one trolling lure... go figure. Its hard to help the fisherman when you are doing 8 knots with the gennaker up and you hook something.

Fish and No Fish

Day 3 and we are fishing at last! Two lovely snapper caught just outside Deep Water Cove, where the Canterbury is a dive wreck. This trip was already shaping up as a 'species' tour, as we also managed a Kahawai, Moray Eel, Conger Eel, Scorpionfish, Kingfish, Trevally, Sweep, Yellowtail, and Spotty.

First day of fishing a good start. Overnight in Oke Bay was good - but there were squadrons of some fly that kamikazied into the dinner as we were trying to cook it. Tasty though. Next day the wind that should be from the northeast is south east and starting to blow. We decided to find a place that was sheltered back up by the Canterbury. Not very eventful - however, on moving, I managed a small cartwheel in the cockpit, landing on the tiller and producing a large split. Perhaps our trip to Opua would be sooner than we thought.

Split tiller, which could not take much weight at all. So started our first day in captivity while we had the tiller repaired at Ashby's Boatyard. A fine job done gluing and screwing it back to safety. Good excuse for a shower or two, and a real coffee...

Well - we were away again and hunting through the SpotX book for sure fishing spots - and with the wind now southwest and 20 knots, sheltered. Well I'm not sure where the fish were - evading us... just a million Sweep attacking our baits like mad things, and a couple of Kahawai - always welcome.

Heading back

As we were so far from home and the weather reportedly packing up... we decided that we would head back to Tutukaka. Same idea... a stop-over in the marina and on to Kawau the following day. The trip down to Tutukaka was exciting - with a reef in the main and the headsail half furled and hiding behind the main, we were in 11 knot territory - good for a 30ft Lotus 9.2 cruising yacht. Into the safety of the marina and the weather worsened. We ended up having a lay-over in Tutukaka - good excuse for dinner at the Angling Club and a draught or two.

Next day the wind had died a bit and we set off for Kawau - the roughly "65 mile day". All went well, with the fun of another barracouta on a speed jig that we trailed and a pod of dolphins that stayed with us for 3 hours.

Hard to photograph with the digital camera - click the button and pause and 'shot' and meanwhile dolphin has gone under again... they played on the bow mostly, with some jumping and splashing - not quite up to Marineland standards.

Back in Home Waters

Back in Kawau Bay we had about an hour and a half to do some fishing before dark - 4 nice snapper in the 32-35cm size. It proved to us that we didn't need to go so far away from home to catch fish.

Still watching the weather, the Saturday was billed on all reports as 25knots rising to 30 gusting 40knots. So we had breakfast in Mansion House Bay and headed for Westhaven. Well we ended up putting the motor on again the wind was so light - and we could see the Spring Regatta fleet heading down past Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands struggling to get any real progress. Their wind did come in eventually - by that time we were home, showered and planning the next trip.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lost: Virginity

One minute you have it, next minute its gone - you are changed - you see the world differently now, you can never go back, you can never just wonder - you know.

And so it came to pass, that on a grassy knoll private road, near a smelly pond a regenerating wet-land, a mere cruiser-boy passed through what must be the rite-of-passage for every man - I rode a Ducati Superbike - a Ducati 998s - and yes... it was red.

So how did it feel?

The moment of truth...

I gently rolled my leg over her the seat - tenderly yet firmly with one hand to steady myself, leaning over, turning the key and purposefully pressing the go button. Life stirred between my legs, vibrating with energy, gurgling with pleasure, trembling in anticipation... take it easy

...the twist - and - WOW!!! - its never been like that before!

A gear change, another, a corner - should I slow down?? - I'm around the corner like we are on rails - I look down at the speedo - that my friend is a large number - and the sound is not a hoarse roar but effortless laughter, egging me on - I feel so in charge - so confident. Intoxicating.

Here I am on the Ducati 998s thanks to Dave, who felt he needed to share the love, and to whom I am eternally indebted.

I'm not saying I don't love my red Boulevard C90 - we had just spent the day gallivanting to the Coromandel and back, I just have a new appreciation of life and of experiences that may be just waiting around the corner, on a beautiful Spring day - if you get out there and look.

All donations for my dreamers garage gratefully accepted.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

500 km ride to Hampton Downs

The first dry weekend for a few weeks brings with it the chance of a ride. And so with Ivan rearing to go and an organised ride by Big Bikes in Hamilton, we set off. The official ride didn't start until 2:30 PM so we decided to take in the Clevedon-Kawakawa Bay-Kaiaua route. A really nice day too, fine and dry, and not too hot - and that road is such a fantastic ride. A coffee in Kaiaua but no fish-and-chips this time, and we headed out towards Mangatawhiri, and via the old State Hwy 2, through to Mercer on Koheroa Rd. The 'Castle" at Mangatawhiri has a For Lease sign out - nobody comes this way anymore I'm afraid. Nice ride to Mercer and 5km back on the main road we turned off at Hampton Downs to survey the Hampton Downs Raceway - as you can see, there is still quite a bit to do.

Here is a picture of two bikes and field of clay.

Then through to Big Bikes via the famous Hamilton by-pass (that actually takes longer than going through the centre of town) and a catchup with a few friends. Mind you, the cruisers were severely outnumbered by sporties: Ducati, Aprilia, KTM, and a couple of Hyabusa's amongst them.

I was thinking "its bikes with radar detector vs bikes with GPS".

View Larger Map

So how come the guys with the GPS got totally lost? We even found Eureka (yeah, I know...) but not the prescribed ride route.

So we abandoned the well designed motorcycle speedy-twisty-backroads for the "straight to the pub" strategy. By this time the day was drawing on and Ivan and I decided to go straight back to Auckland from Tirau, to try and arrive before dark - and we nearly made it. Ivan's Hyosung 250R was being put to the test and I'm sure he changed gear 1000 times while doing a great job of keeping up with the bigger bikes. Mind you I was being extra good (mostly).

Great day, great roads, great company, and a vast field of clay. You'll need knobblies for the next trackday...

Westhaven Floating Dock

In preparation for the annual International Fishing Contest - we have in the blue corner, weighing in at under 90 kgs, John - representing New Zealand, the oldest grandson of the master-fisher "Kingfish Harry". And in the red corner, representing Australia - the Hapuka Hatchet-man himself, none other than Roger. I say none other, because there are only two of us going - but you get the general idea... not that we are competitive...

Anyway, the Floating Dock. In order to look at the bottom of the boat to check the antifouling, and assess whether the sacrificial anode needs changing - the service provided by the Floating Dock at Westhaven is ideal. In the space of an hour we took the boat from the marina, did the lift and clean, and were back in the marina. Ken does a fantastic job - all with efficiency and good humour.

However, it seems that the Floating Dock may be going! The Resource Consent is up for renewal and some neighbours want him out. That would be a great blow to all yachties in the area, who rely on those excellent services to get cleaned, do surveys, and quickly do jobs under-the-waterline.

You should contact Ken or your boat club, and find out what you can do, if you want to retain this exceptional service.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Deus Ex Machina

Here in Auckland, near the Secret Garden, there is a place of wonder and awe! Shed 5 presents:
Deus Ex Machina - a place of inspiration and salivation.

I was going to say they have some wonderful stuff there... they have ALL wonderful stuff there... quite apart from being a most amazing environment of rough and sophisticated; old and new; antique and avant-garde - stepping through the workshop-like front doors I just stood in awe... crazy motorbikes, fantastic painted helmets, beautiful leather gloves, WW1-style flying goggles and more amazing bobbed and un-bobbed motorcycles.

After walking around with widening grins we sat down for a coffee at a huge slab of a table, which had some very tasteful books covering it. I had to buy something... I settled for a Tee-shirt. Do or don't take your credit-card there - if you do then prepare to carry stuff out.

View deus ex in a larger map

This is THE place for your next change of life.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Fire and Ice

The winter solstice turned on a beautiful winter weekend, and one which required a roadtrip. And so it came to pass that the Whangamata Wander was conceived, planned and executed.

View Larger Map

Clear and cold would be a good summary for the day... how cold you ask? well cold enough to have us tip-toeing up the Kopu-Hikuwai hill through the ice. I haven't ridden in ice before, and at first I wasn't quite sure what was going on... the bike was just 'loose' under me, squirming even on the straights. I hadn't clicked to it being ice until we came across the accident. We stopped and when I put my feet down I realised the road was covered in ice... I couldn't have stood up. We had one of our bikes go a bit slow and lose it on a corner, and at least one sports bike from another group slipped over - but it was egos rather than insurance claims that took the brunt of the situation.

Stop to recover and regroup after the ice.

Once over the top, the east side was clear and 'warm' and the run through to Whangamata a blast. Lunch was successfully ordered and consumed, amidst our usual public disorder and disruption, at the Lizard Cafe. Actually we aren't too bad, but get a crowd of 20 people together on the street and it does create a bit of a commotion.

The road through to Waihi and then on through the Karangahake Gorge is great riding country, with beautiful scenery and good riding surface. We could have gone home from here, but the GPS's were programmed with the Tahuna Pub and after a quick sprint across the plains we were at the Tahuna Pub for a brief refreshment. Out of Tahuna heading west towards Ohinewai, we made a right just after Te Hoe to skirt around the back of Lake Waikare - which is surprisingly beautiful - and just off the main road far enough so most Kiwis probably don't even know it exists. And its quite big (from an "undiscovered lakes" perspective).

Sun strike - the other by-product of the low sun on winter days - at 3:30pm we were blinded on each hill crest - which isn't that good really... Then through to Te Kauwhata, on to Mercer for gas and home. A great winter's day ride in the sun.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Team Fishing Trip Motutapu

To celebrate the launch of the Beca website, we went fishing, as you do...

Oscar took this photo - I am showing off my knot tying skills.

There were serious knots to do, serious berley to release, and serious fish to catch. I guess the two sharks were the most serious, then the two large kahawai, and two bust-offs, and two throw back snapper. Not that good overall in the fishing stakes I would have to say, although the sail down to Home Bay and back to Westhaven was good.

Fishing Spot X did not produce the goods on this particular occasion... Here's hoping for the trip to the Bay of Islands in September.

So what happened to those to lovely Kahawai I hear you ask???

Beca Kahawai
A large baking dish to fit the fillets in one layer
A saucepan
4 Kahawai Fillets - i.e. 2 fish - remove any bones
1 Medium Onion - sliced
1 Tin Diced Tomatoes
1 Bunch Basil
1/8 Tsp Thyme
2-3 Cloves Garlic

Pre-Heat the oven to 220c

In a saucepan sauté the onion and garlic, add tomatoes and herbs. I always put a little water in the tin, swill it around and pour in too - just enough to clean the tin. Do this for 15 minutes.
Then put a little of the tomato mixture in the dish to create a rough layer for the fish fillets to lie on. Add the fillets in a single layer. Pour over the rest of the tomato mixture, cover with tinfoil, and bake for 8 minutes. Check the fillets - they should be fine though - if the dish is heavy ceramic then maybe allow another minute. Then again, if the fillets are thin take off a minute - you know - its the art vs the science thing...

I decided to roast some carrots and potatoes seeing as I was putting the oven on, and added steamed broccoli to complete the meal. It came with a chilled Villa Maria 2007 Sauvingnon Blanc. How hard can it be, people?

Seeing as I only caught the baby snapper (who are swimming happily off Motutapu somewhere) I did well to have the two fresh Kahawai in my possession - skippers prerogative?? :-)

Crew: Nicola, Bryan, Oscar, Mark. Absent: Martin - couldn't make it - was working... huh?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

NZ South Island Motorcycle Roadtrip

Sunday - Hanmer Springs to Lake Tekapo

Got up early to wish the North Islanders a safe trip before they took off for the early ferry and to get an alarm/disc-lock from Grey, and of course, breakfast.
The morning was dull with brooding clouds and looking south, it looked like rain approaching. I gassed up at 9:00 and found Greg and Wendy and 'Bison' ready to go, so it was 3 bikes as far as Amberley, with them carrying on to Christchurch.
The weather was clearing but still the south looked wet. From Amberley I took the inland route 72 through Geraldine and Oxford and then back towards Lake Tekapo. The road was wet in places but the day was starting to clear - until on arrival at Tekapo it was a beautiful cloud-less day.
Coming into Tekapo is amazing - you sweep around a big bend and the lake and mountains is right there - but no stopping allowed - must have been a few incidents with people stopping for the view and then pulling out into traffic. Instead of sand on the beach there is builders-mix - perfect for that chippy on holiday.
I found the Holiday Park and wireless Internet and settled in to my one room cabin - no loo, and no way I was even contemplating going out to the amenities - it was clear and getting very cold - just the rabbits outside.
A good days ride, a comfortable bed, a cold Guinness - and the heater on all night.

Monday - Lake Tekapo to Pounawea

The morning was frosty and I delayed start to let the roads dry out and warm up before heading off at 9:30.
There were a few bikers in the camp and some from the Boulevard Rally. I hooked up with 3 bikes from Dunedin who were taking the long way home. The road was great and after gassing up in Omarama we breakfasted in Twizel. I took off and saw them again a couple of times along the road.
Had lunch in Alexandra. I had hoped to walk in on Ian Mac but it was a was a local anniversary holiday and the shop was shut. Better luck next time.
Lunch done and holiday 15% loading paid (I had the 'Trendy Lunch') it was down the road towards Milton, hanging a right at Beaumont and heading along the Clutha river to Balclutha. This is one of the rides in the Peter Mitchell NZ Motorcycling Atlas, and it is an excellent choice with no traffic, a good surface, and easy left-right combos all along the river.
I had intended to stay at Owaka (pronounced o-wacka by the locals - I was corrected every time I said O-waka) but decided to head for the coast, ending up at Pounawea in a campground cabin looking out at the sea. I can hear the surf crashing outside now and untold Tuis singing. Dinner at the pub in Owaka and on the way back encountered a campervan coming at me on the wrong side of the road - and not correcting - I slammed on the anchors and stayed in my lane. The young driver slewed across to the left, smiled and waved. I hope that is the last I see.
One thing about Owaka - no Vodafone coverage, and so I bought a phonecard for the local public phone box - which you guessed it, was out of order. I haven't phoned home. An early start might be in order and a call from Invercargill to allay fears and to set up my bed for Tuesday in Queenstown.

Checked tyres - definitely need updating when I get back to Auckland.

Tuesday - Pounawea, Bluff, Queenstown

Is it really 7:00 o'clock? Cold, and I have to walk across to the showers - I think I will go for a bed plus ensuite next time.
Got away early, heading for some phone coverage as soon as possible to let Viv know I am alright, and to try to make contact with Nick in Queenstown.
The sun was up and I headed out for the ride through the Catlins - and Pink Floyd Echoes playing on the iPod:

Overhead the albatross
Hangs motionless upon the air
And deep beneath the rolling waves
In labyrinths of coral caves
An echo of a distant time
Comes willowing across the sand
And everything is green and submarine.

The road was dry and in the sunny bits cold, but in the bushy glades freezing - luckily enough variation to keep things reasonably comfortable. Lovely swoops down to the coast and then back through the bush to rolling farmland where I could open up a little. Cow shit to dodge.
Invercargill - gas, coffee and poached egg on toast - then off to take the obligatory photo at Bluff. Just after I took the pic a seagull came and sat right on the bike, with me just a metre away - so I took another shot before thinking of that it might leave me as a calling card - shit happens, but not this time.

And being in Bluff... oysters! I picked up 2 doz in the hope that I would be sharing them with Nick, Robyn and Miro by the end of the day. They were fantastic BTW.
A good ride up the main road to Queenstown, a bit of cruising around and managed to find Nick and at very short notice got to stay with them. Thanks guys.

Wednesday - Queenstown - the Crown Range, Wanaka to Franz Josef

A household with a young boy off to school and Nick peddling off to work meant that I was on the road at 8:30 for the Crown Range.
Wow - what a great stretch of road! And while possibly a little tiresome in a car - a joy on the bike. And running down - just beautiful. I was taking a video but it didn't come out: error - really annoying. Wanaka was good for a toilet stop, gas and coffee. Then off on the next amazing piece of road to Haast.
I would say that the road between Wanaka and Haast was THE best from a riders point of view, and the scenery just fantastic. Then up the coast, over the swing bridges and passed the little rock 'sculptures' - travellers offerings to the gods - you have to stop there and make a little stack of rocks - I bucked the trend however, maybe next time.
Arrived at Franz Josef and ended up staying with two big busloads of young Kiwi Experience 18 to 20 somethings, mostly European, who partied very late. While I was there I did my laundry - wow $7 later... they must put a lot of money through those machines!
After sampling my first Monteiths on the West Coast (or two) I was only worried about the safety of the bike with so many people around.

Thursday - Franz Josef to Sumner

Needing to get away before the buses hit the road I went for breakfast early - only to find 12 other bikers (from Wellington) who were on a road trip - with all sorts of bikes - street, dual, cruiser - so much for trying to start early. After a long chat I was off into the foggy morning.
There were two big things for the day - seeing 6 police cars (I was innocent, true) and traversing the Arthur's Pass. Absolutely amazing - awesome. Lots of pics taken and a couple of movies. Just another world... and the sky was blue and the day crisp and clear. I would love to see it in the snow.
Gas getting low and no end of awesome riding and scenery - I was hoping to find a gas station and a toilet... soon. Rewarded at Springfield I set off on the boring ride across the straight roads of the plains - aware that if caught over 140 I was walking home...
... and still I was thinking about that campervan on the wrong side of the road from Monday. As if riding wasn't engaging enough, something new to look out for.
Decided to go through the tunnel to Lyttleton and then around the winding narrow road to Sumner - well worth the effort.

Friday - Sumner to Picton

Up at 7:00 and on the road at 9:30.. eh? Lots of talking to do over breakfast :-)
An uneventful ride to Picton - besides a red van trying to run me off the road. The Kaikoura coast is lovely, but busy. Found a bed and a cold beer, and sampled the famous "Fish and chips in Picton".
The place I am staying at AAA Marlin Motel has covered parking for bikes and also has lockup parking available.

Saturday - Picton to Auckland

I was on the 10:00am ferry, so no need to get up early and be queuing at the ferry at 5:00 in the morning. There were about 7 bikes boarding and the put us on before the cars to give us time to tie down the bikes. I used 3 tie-downs: one on each side on the handlebars and one down at the back on the side-stand side. I also tied the front brake on and had the bike in 1st gear. The crossing was very smooth and calm.
Once inside the ferry it was time for breakfast and coffee, and being such a nice clear day, to marvel at the beauty of the sounds. The 4 hour trip went quickly, with the bonus of Bike Rider TV and a large pod of dolphins that came to play around the front of the Aratere.
Once off the ferry and underway I headed straight out of Wellington for my first scheduled gas stop in Bulls - then I just kept going... next fuelstop Turangi, then Matamata and home in the dark around 8:30pm - all the lights were out - was there anyone home?
Oh, Earth Hour. In fact if it comes to Earth anything it was Earth Magic South Island Motorcycle Tour for the past 9 days! Just awesome. Still a few roads left for next time...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The 2009 Suzuki Boulevard Rally Hanmer Springs

[Day 1] Thursday - The trip to Wellington

The packing had been done and I had the alarm set for 5:45a for a departure that should see me at the Papkura Autobahn at around 7:30am, the agreed meeting time. The alarm decided that 4:45am would be a better idea, as that was the time that I got up LAST Thursday on my way to Wellington (but traveling by AirNZ that time).
Yeah yeah, I know, how hard can it be...the wonders of early morning alarm setting. So I didn't even notice and when all packed up with bags on bike and riding gear on I checked the time - 5:20am... eh?? I was an hour early for our rendezvous - better than being late, I guess.

The trip for the day had 4 bikes going down to Ngarawahia, through to Otorohonga, and onto Hwy 4, with lunch set for Wanganui.

Wanganui and Nelson share a taste for hanging plants.

We got drenched between Mercer and Whatawhata and in hind-sight, wearing my rain-suit would have been a good idea. Luckily IT stayed dry in the saddle-bags. The rest of the day dried out and the roads got better. Road-works got more frequent on Hwy 4 but all in all a good ride. I stopped briefly in Bulls and profuse apologies to Midnight, two bikes split up and headed off to lodgings in Wellington. A good thing too as the curries had just arrived just before I did. Thanks Graeme, I really appreciated the stop-over - especially your great key finding abilities, without which I would be walking to Hanmer.
Lets just say the night ended quite late.

[Day 2] Friday - Across Cook Strait aka So Many New Friends

Up and dressed and consuming vast quantities of water - quite thirsty for some reason... it was clean-the-bike and get going time. I trundled off to Wellington Motorcycles and once registered found a very nice coffee at Cafe Deluxe next door - and then started meeting people - what a great bunch! We were instant best friends, and by the time we had waited in the sun to board the ferry, and then loaded on and sailed across on the Aratere, we were old mates. And with my best effort to recruit for the Cruiser Group I hope we will be riding with them again in the near future.
The ride from Picton to Nelson was at a good pace, and boded well for the bigger group ride from Nelson to Hanmer.
My riding buddies from the day before had gone over on an earlier ferry, and on arrival at Nelson we all headed off for the Sports Cafe, dinner and a beer or two. The main entertainment was the table of young girls beside us, as the drinking got more serious, so the volume increased and the stories more entertaining - what is sexercise anyway?? In bed before 12:00am - well done.

[Special Mention]

If you are riding through the Nelson area and need a place to stay, then go to the Mid City Motel. It was great, not expensive, and if asked nicely Ajay will organise a lock-up for your bike. He went out of his way to make us comfortable and it was appreciated.

[Day 3] Saturday - Nelson to Hanmer Springs

Up early, breakfast at McDonalds - custom Egg McMuffin and coffee. Pack and assemble for the ride through Murchison to Hanmer Springs.

Some of the assembled Boulevard riders in Nelson.

The morning was sunny and the road through to Murchison dry. Where the sun had not penetrated through the beech canopy though it was quite cold - like when you go into the beer fridge at the wholesalers and can't make up your mind. Gas up at Murchison and time to put on another layer of clothing. Imagine 80 bikes all hitting a small gas station at once - bedlam. On the other hand 80 bikes x $15...
The Lewis Pass is an absolutely great ride, especially around Maruia Hot Springs. And then where you pop back out into the sunshine you are in a grand valley amongst the alps. Its just not the same coming up the other way from Christchurch.

Suzuki Boulevard Rally 2009 bikes assembled. There was no big ride with Northern and Southern riders together, which was a little disappointing.

Drinks and dinner, and a few drinks, and plenty of discussion over tyres and jackets, and the best exhaust etc. I didn't win a prize either :-(

Sunday, March 8, 2009

2009 Westpac Helicopter Ride

After the weather during the week had been from sunny clear days to full on wind and rain, I wondered just what it would be like on Sunday for the 2009 Westpac Helicopter charity ride - fearing the worse. Well it turned out a beautiful day with a good turnout. The day started with the meeting of the group at Caltex in Fanshawe Street at 7:00 am for the first ride of the day to the Karaka Bloodstock sale yards near Papakura.

There were about 1000 bikes, and most had pillion passengers. This is half of them. There was a good turn out from the Cruiser Group too and I met a couple of old friends from the past - Gus from school and Jock from Fletcher days. Hope to see you guys on some more runs.

We rode down the motorway and every overbridge had people waving. This year we had the outside lane only, so there were cars on the motorway at the same time as the cavalcade of bikes. Then off at Wellesley and down Queen Street, along Fanshawe (again) and over the Auckland Harbour Bridge to the Akoranga campus. Through all those traffic lights there was only one colour... green. Police held traffic back so we had a clear run.

After the long queue for coffee and a look through the rescue helicopter we took Hwy 16 and through Woodcocks to lunch in Warkworth. All in all very civilised.

Monday, February 9, 2009

How to extend the summer vacation

This was the annual routine of notshaving over the break - because you don't have to shave when you are on holiday...

An Epic bloke, sitting in his garden, pondering the last vestiges of the summer growth :-) BTW that's my vice right there in the background.

Epic Christmas, Epic New Year

Posing with beer, Epic Pale Ale to be exact.

Well it goes like this... Christmas time I went out fishing and caught some nice snapper which I baked for Christmas Dinner, requiring me to stay appropriately lubricated in the kitchen.

I had to remove the tails to get them in the baking dish.

A great day had by all.

Then we managed to get away on the boat for a couple of days, spending New Years eve at the bottom of Waiheke at Man-O-War Bay. At the small trench at the north end of the bay I picked up 3 lovely snapper, before both rods went crazy together as we hooked into a Mako. I decided to stop fishing for the day, and NOT go for a swim. Still, company was very good, and we saw in the New Year in a sky of anchor lights and fireworks. After a trip New Years Day across to Coromandel Harbour we settled at Home Bay, Motutapu.

Epic Boating - reward at the end of the trip.